Shafali Verma: The 17-year-old who is revolutionising T20 cricket

India

Few cricketers have ever made such a staggering impact at such a young age, but then again, Shafali Verma is no ordinary cricketer.

The 17-year-old announced herself on the international stage at last year’s World T20 tournament. Just 16 years of age at the time, Verma smashed 163 runs in five games at a strike rate of 158.25 as India came agonisingly close to lifting their first World Cup title.

Though the opening batter struggled in the final against Australia, being dismissed for only two runs, her exploits throughout the tournament broke records, broke boundaries and drew countless admirers from fans, players and coaches alike.

What is so encapsulating about watching Verma bat is her willingness to take on any bowler, at any stage of the match. In 22 T20 matches, Verma has a strike rate of 148.31 –– the highest of any player to have registered more than 500 runs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has halted Verma’s remarkable rise somewhat, mainly due to the absence of competitive cricket throughout the last year.

Yet, as India returned to action against South Africa last Saturday, Verma confirmed her talent was still there in abundance. Scores of 23 and 47 were followed up by a match-winning knock of 60 off just 30 balls on Tuesday.

This form has seen the young Indian rise to number one in the ICC T20 Batting Rank Rankings, overtaking Australia’s Beth Mooney. Mooney was voted the Player of the Tournament at last year’s World Cup, so Verma’s ascent to the top is further proof of her unmeasurable impact on this Indian side.

Despite her exceptional form in T20 internationals, Verma is yet to make the transition to ODI cricket. Left out of India’s squad for their upcoming 50 overs series against South Africa, India’s new superstar admitted her disappointment but promised to improve.

“I made up my mind I will work more on my fitness and make sure I play according to the balls whenever I get an opportunity in the format,” said Verma, after her game-winning knock on Tuesday.

While some may argue that Verma is deserving of a chance to prove herself in this format, India are clearly biding their time, and will no doubt introduce the teenager at some stage in the future.

If Verma can improve her fitness and decision-making but maintain her fearless mentality, then the already revered cricketer will only continue to make history.

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